Grace and Peace to you, beloved children of God. Amen.
Last week I suggested you sit and read the gospel of Mark. To hear it with new ears and listen for things you might never have thought existed. I told you Mark moves quickly from one thing to another. There is an immediacy about Mark gospel. And you won’t always feel comforted by what happens.
Sometimes it’s important for us to be taken outside of our comfort zone. To be placed in the wilderness where life isn’t all sweet dreams and cotton candy. And the wilderness is exactly where Mark’s gospel starts. It is a wilderness where we will constantly hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is where we will be pushed outside of our nice little boxes, which protect us from the evils of the world.
Think about the wilderness, for us like those in Mark’s time we have experienced the physical desert. Many of us have hiked and/or camped in the desert. It’s a place you do not go unprepared or you may not come back alive. We realize there is more to a desert than first meets the eye. The desert is a dry place where water is difficult to find. The sun may be hot during the day, but nights are cold. Extreme temperature changes happen as the sun goes down. Yet this is also when the most activity occurs in a desert. The dark brings out the wildlife. And it is in this harsh environment, we find God. For the desert is a beautiful world for those who are prepared. It is a world where life is continually being created.
Mark’s first audience doesn’t need a lot of backstory because they are living the story, so this gospel leaves out the genealogy of Jesus. It does not need the beautiful image of Jesus being born. Instead it launches us into the Good News of Jesus with just a preface, because the first audience is already experiencing the harsh reality of their lives. They understand the brutality of their government – Roman. They know life itself is like a desert, with hardship and pain. So Mark’s preface takes us into the world of John the Baptist. A man described like a man of old – Elijah – the prophet of old who foretells the coming of a new age. John wears camel skins, eats bugs, and scavenges for edible food. John is the image of a haggard, homeless person, smelly and ravaged by life. His voice is probably hoarse voice from projecting his message loudly for all to hear. His message is one of preparing the way for a person greater than himself. John is shown as Elijah of old who proclaims God’s message, “Prepare the way! I am coming to my people (whether they are ready or not.)”
And the people hear John. At first just a few come. They hear the message, go back and tell others. Those too come out and listen as John keeps repeating his message over and over again. Prepare the Way of the Lord. God is coming. The people hear, go back and tell more, until even those who in far flung places like Jerusalem are coming out into the desert as well. These people come to hear a promise of new life in the midst of the harsh reality of life. They come seeking forgiveness, repenting their sins, and are washed in the Jordan River just as the first Israelites were as crossed over the river into the Promised Land after fleeing Egypt and living in the desert for 40 years. John preached a message of repentance and baptism to prepare the people for something greater than any could imagine – A messiah who would save the world once for all people over all time.
God is in-breaking into the world. The promise of God’s return is imminent. We can be certain of it. Just as we can be certain God is the seeker in the largest game ever of Hide and Seek. God will find everyone. God’s patience endures forever. So go, prepare to be found. For as in hide and seek, it can be fun at times to hide, but the joy happens when we are found. God is seeking all. All will be found. For remember God’s time is unlike ours. As we heard in 2nd Peter, “Do not ignore this one face, beloved, with Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.”
We have already been found. We belong to God. We have been baptized – called and claimed by God. The game of hide and seek is taking place around us. God is the seeker. We are called to be proclaimers like John the Baptist before us. We are the ones who have experienced the Good News of Jesus Christ. We know what it is like to live in the deserts of our lives with the fear and desolation caused by the harsh realities of the world we live in. We know the difficulties of disease, hunger, war, and despair. Yet the in-breaking of Christ is taking place. God has already entered into the struggles of the world. Emmanuel – God with Us – is here. We no longer need to fear death for death has been conquered once for all people. This Advent season as we continue to await Christ’s second coming, we are called to be seekers in the great game of hide and seek. We are called to proclaim the Good News as John did, so all might continue to hear God’s love for all creation. God will not stop until all are found. This is the Good News. God’s love is all encompassing. It is for everyone. No one is excluded. All are welcome into God’s Kingdom. Amen.